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|A Pete Dye-designed golf course is just one of the many activities guests can enjoy at Carmel Valley Ranch. (Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch)|
CARMEL, Calif. -- Golfers making a pilgrimage to the Monterey Peninsula will find a peaceful, fun and topnotch round of golf on the grounds of the upscale Carmel Valley Ranch. It's located an easy drive east from touristy Carmel-by-the-sea.
The golf course at Carmel Valley Ranch -- the only Pete Dye design in northern California -- offers two different experiences in one, and it's built right into the mountainside as well as the flat meadow below the resort's restaurants and residences.
The track offers a discounted package starting after 2 p.m. -- including one round, cart, clubs, driving range and a sleeve of balls -- and an even lower green fee for guests of the property who can bring along their children: just $25.
In summer that may leave you with time enough after playing 18 holes for a quick swim or to make the happy hour by the adult pool off the main lobby.
As the starter put it on a recent round, "The front nine is flat with water features, while the back nine is all about elevation."
The lush track tees off near the bottom of the mountain, giving golfers a mostly flat front nine, although the first hole does lead off from a small knoll hitting downhill into a narrow fairway. That sets the tone for the front nine, where players will need to keep it straight and play target golf.
There's also a fair amount of water that comes into play on the first half of the round, including the duck pond behind the green on no. 2 for shots that sail long.
And playing from the tips on four requires a carry shot across the water, as does the tee shot off the par-3 fifth, where a deft landing will keep balls dry and out of the drink.
Carmel Valley Ranch's back nine climb may include lots of wildlife as well as challenging holes. It begins near the resort's "Bee Line" and organic garden as the track begins a fairly steep incline to the 10th green, nestled on a hilltop beside the vineyard. Be wary that shots back across the green that don't stick may roll well back down the hill leaving a serious lob back up and onto the short grass.
The 11th hole provides the signature tee shot from above the resort rooftops, and the view from the tips draws non-golfers who hike up just to gaze out across the resort's vineyards, the 10th green and down into the valley where the clubhouse and front nine lay.
During the round, a herd of deer -- some sporting a number of points on their rack -- lined the 12th fairway and ambled across in between fairway strokes.
On a clear day you can see to the sea on the par-3 13th. The elevated tee shot down to the target green below found the short grass even with a dozen or so more deer comprising a greenside gallery. They didn't stir from that first shot and politely watched the player putt out without being bothered.
No. 14 continues the descent, teeing off downhill where another group of wildlife (this time wild turkeys) gathered along the fairway to watch the tee shots land and roll downhill and then spy the second shot to an elevated green.
Speaking of birds, no. 17 offers a prime opportunity to go below par, while 18 provides a finish with a flourish. There is some water and sand along the right side of the fairway, but for those that knock it straight, this hole may just yield a red number on the green as players finish a pleasurable up-and-down course.
December 5, 2016
Robert Gray is a freelance journalist now based on the West Coast after covering Wall St., the economy, and the business of sports among other things for Fox Business and Bloomberg TV in New York. Prior to that, he covered sports, news and entertainment for various media in Washington, D.C. and Prague. Follow Robert on Twitter at @robertdgray.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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